It was the tumultuous romance that scandalized the world: Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner fought, loved, and lived life to the hilt. Now their unbridled story is brought vividly to life by Heather Webb, the bestselling author of Meet Me in Monaco and The Next Ship Home.
In the golden age of Hollywood, two of the brightest stars would define—and defy—an era…
She was the small-town southern beauty transformed into a Hollywood love goddess. He was the legendary crooner whose voice transfixed the world. They were Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. Separately they were irresistible; together they were an explosive combination.
Ava’s star is rising just as Frank’s career—and public image as a family man—is taking a hit. Gone are the days of the screaming bobbysoxers and chart-topping hits. Ava, however, finds herself gracing the front page of every tabloid in America. Jealousy and cheating abound, and when the two succumb to their temperaments and their vices, their happiness is threatened at every turn.
As the pair ride the rollercoaster of success and failure, passion and anger, they both wonder if the next turn will be the end of their careers, and most devastating of all—the end of all they’ve shared.
A captivating novel with a star-studded cast spanning continents and decades, Strangers in the Night brings to life the most riveting love story of the twentieth century.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation and to the publisher for the proof copy to review. Strangers in the Night is published by William Morrow in the US and Harper360 in the UK in all formats – the UK paperback being published today 13 April. I’m delighted to be one of the two bloggers opening the tour, having had my eye on this book for some time.
They can’t live with each other, and can’t live without each other. That was my impression after reading of the volatile, passionate and turbulent relationship between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Beginning in the mid 1940s and going through to Ava’s death in the 1990s, their life together was a constant merry go round of jealous fights, endless next chances and passionate reunions. In the early years of their relationship, Frank’s career was dwindling to nothing, whilst Ava’s star slowly rose with her MGM movies and photo shoots.
The amount of research required to write about these two giants of the entertainment business must have been tremendous but Heather Webb has pulled it off quite magnificently. She blends fact and fiction so well that I felt as if I were reading an autobiography and really delves into their lives to bring these people to life. There are numerous other famous people who appear in the book – including Grace Kelly, and Howard Hughes whose obsessive behaviour included stalking Ava. In addition, the insight into the power and control of the major studios over their actors professional – and personal lives, was rather revealing. The culture of jealousy, lewdness and just general exploitation was something that you had to put up with if you wanted to be a ‘star’ it seemed.
When Ava first met Frank, she was married to Mickey Rooney and took an instant dislike to him. However after two failed marriages, she fell for his so called charm and chat and so embarked on a volatile love affair. Everyone else called him Frank but to her he was Francis. He apparently seemed to have the worst temper but Ava could hold her own and really they both appeared to be as bad as each other with drunken spats, crazy stunts and jealous rages. Frank’s alleged links to the Mob are also touched upon, as well as how the story of The Rat Pack (his singing partnership with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr) began.
I very much enjoyed the old Hollywood glamour and glitz of the story and the look inside an industry that cared more for reputation than people. Infidelity, addiction and mental health crisis’ feature heavily in the story. Theirs was the epitome of a toxic relationship, which despite loving each other almost to the point of obsession, caused each so much angst.
I’ve read Heather’s books before and she is excellent at historical fiction. Rich with detail and told by way of alternating chapters voiced by both Ava and Frank, often with their own perspective on a situation, Strangers in the Night is a captivating all encompassing study of two Hollywood greats. I’d obviously heard of both, Frank Sinatra was my grandparent’s favourite, but knew very little about their lives. This fictionalised story based on fact, brought them to life and once I’d finished the book, the Google rabbit hole beckoned as I wanted to find out more.
Heather Webb is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of eight historical novels. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was a Goodread’s Top Pick, and in 2018, Last Christmas in Paris won the Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. Meet Me in Monaco, was selected as a finalist for the 2020 Goldsboro RNA award in the UK, as well as the 2019 Digital Book World’s Fiction prize. Heather’s upcoming release is a novel of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner called Strangers in the Night. To date, Heather’s books have been translated to seventeen languages. She lives in New England with her family, a mischievous kitten, and one feisty rabbit.
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